Aterciopelados may not rock as hard as when they started in Bogat?í, Colombia, in 1992, but a more expansive musical maturity and melodicism infuse their latest album, R?¡o (Nacional Records). Singer Andrea Echeverri explored the concept of being a new mother on her 2005 self-titled solo album and brings a parental concern about the world we're living in to R?¡o. The title track and "Aguita" allude to the band's activism on behalf of a constitutional referendum to ensure equal access to clean water in Colombia. (Last summer, they journeyed along Bogat?í River to gather signatures for the referendum, which ultimately passed.) Echeverri and bassist-arranger Hector Buitrago prefer to approach social issues through a contemplative, personal perspective rather than rabble-rousing stridency. Songs like "Madre" and "Vals" have a gently lulling intensity, blending a soft litany of chanting voices and percussive accents with swirling flutes and sunny guitars.
Colombian band Aterciopelados is serious about its message and its music
By Timothy Finn The Kansas City Star
The Colombian band Aterciopelados will make its first-ever appearance in Kansas City tonight at the Beaumont Club.
The duo of Andrea Echeverri and Hector Buitrago has been making records since 1994, blending traditional Colombian and Latin music with various blends of American rock. Many of their songs address social and political issues, especially the environment and violence.
Echeverri recently spoke to The Star about her band's music and influences.
Q. Many of your songs have lyrics that convey a serious message. In the United States, where everyone does not speak your language, does it matter that some fans are not understanding the messages?
A. For us the lyrics are an important part of the music. We talk about topics like the environment and women and their role in society, violence and anti-war. We try to use music as a communication vehicle for social and political commentary. We try to send a message about the things we care about and we think people should be aware of. But music is also rhythms and harmonies and about creating happiness and making people dance, so if no one understands the lyrics but connect with the music, that is OK, too.
Musically your band has changed so much. Is it hard to play songs that are 15 years old? Do you outgrow some material?
We don't play any songs from our first album ("Con el Corazon en la Mano"). That was a very raw album. It didn't have very much production, so the sound was terrible. It's very aggressive. It's the strangest album. But we do play songs from the second album from 1994 ("El Dorado").
The music is different on that one. There are mellow songs and different rhythms. You can feel what is starting to happen. It is more sophisticated, much more like what we do now. After 14 years, you change and your intentions change. You get more responsible about what you say and what you sing. All that made us change and our music change.
Having children changes everyone's life. You are a mother of two. How has motherhood changed you as an artist and performer?
You become much more conscious of the future and the things that need to change in the world. And the music you listen to changes.
You released a solo album several years ago that addressed children and motherhood.
Yes. That album was all composed while I was pregnant and when my baby was very little. The songs are all about my baby and my partner, too. The song "Amortiguador" is a love song. It means "shock absorber," and it plays with words and uses a car which has a mechanical function to describe a love affair: "You're my love, my shock absorber. You make things seem better. You accelerate me, you guide me. You are my security belt."
Do you listen to much American music?
Sufjan Stevens and Jack Johnson. My daughter is not crazy about it, but she puts up with it. When she was young she listened to the mellow music. But she's 7 now and doesn't like mellow things at all. Now she likes Caf?® Tacuba and rock music with screaming voices. She prefers Latin rock because she likes to understand the words.
Your songs with Aterciopelados employ many styles of music. Some of them are very influenced by Western rock. Do your fans in Colombia appreciate that, or do they tend to like the more traditional songs?
It depends. Colombia is not nearly as big as the United States, but it has its regions. It has two coasts, and it has mountains and flatlands. It's very diverse, and depending on where you live you like to hear different kinds of songs and that depends on economic status and age. But a lot of people like folklorico and the traditional music. In the city the economy is better and there are more young people. A lot of young people listen to American and English music. Many of the young musicians are very interested in the folkloric music and are doing a fusion so they can find their own identity without forgetting their influences.
It's not easy to keep a band alive for nearly two decades, and it's much harder to stay relevant for that long--but the veteran Colombian duo of singer Andrea Echeverri and guitarist-producer Hector Buitrago have done both. On last year's Rio (Nacional) Aterciopelados sound as driven and curious as ever--their warm, upbeat pop songs, subtly gilded with electronics and aglow with tropical vigor, speak to the beauty of nature and the human body and to the political and social forces that impair our enjoyment of them. On the title track Echeverri laments the pollution of the Bogota River, and on "Madre" she celebrates femininity and motherhood, elaborating on the central theme of her 2005 solo album. Musically Rio is the band's most ambitious outing in years: infusions of reggae, Andean chant, hip-hop--Gloria "Goyo" Martinez of the hot Colombian group Choc Quib Town drops some deft rhymes on "28"--and even khoomei-style throat singing color the hooky, effervescent melodies. Even better, this eclecticism isn't just a smoke screen--the core of each song is rock solid, with Buitrago's lithe, ringing guitar lines cradling Echeverri's sanguine singing. Alex Cuba opens. --Peter Margasak